I DISAGREE with those Nigerians
who argue that it is not the business of
Switzerland to attach conditions before
releasing another 300 million dollars of
the Abacha loot to Nigeria. The Swiss
government insists that such money must
be spent on projects and programmes that
have direct benefits to the welfare of the
ordinary Nigerians, and that the World
Bank must identify and monitor the
executions of these projects.
Why should any sincere Nigerian be
disturbed by these conditions? Why must
Swiss government continue to return
the Abacha loot when they can’t find
evidence where the funds were used for
the welfare of the ordinary Nigerians?
Should Switzerland just look on while the
repatriated funds are diverted to private
pockets or to obscure purposes? Every
Nigerian should show interest in this
issue.
The former President Obasanjo
administration, through his Finance
Minister, Okonjo-Iweala, claimed that the
Abacha funds it collected were used on
projects for the welfare of the ordinary
Nigerians. But these projects existed only on
paper as far as we the ordinary Nigerians are
concerned.
There is a direct connection between
public apathy and the audacity of leaders
to steal with impunity. Our Seeming lack of
interest in how the billions of the repatriated
Abacha loot were managed and spent largely
encourages public officeholders to get away
with their indifference to transparency.
Transparency in the management and
expenditure of recovered looted funds is no
less important than fighting corruption.
It is very sad that most Nigerians are
indifferent to accountability issues. Such
apathy undermines our collective interests.
The typical Nigerian would tell you that he
does not want to waste his time complaining
about lack of transparency because of the
common belief that nothing will happen,
and that our criticisms won’t deter public
officeholders from stealing.
How can we build a critical mass to resist
corruption and uproot it in our society
if we continue to believe that our voices
mean nothing? Are we helping ourselves
by being permanently indifferent to issues
that significantly impact on our welfare? Is it
enough to read about loot recoveries by the
government, and then show utter indifference
to the management of the recovered funds?
No democratic system would succeed when
the citizens are indifferent to transparency
and accountability issues. In fact, you cannot
expect your welfare to be better when you
choose to be uninterested in accountability.
One must, however, acknowledge the
efforts of the Socio-Economic Rights and
Accountability Project (SERAP), which has
taken remarkable interest in the management
of the recovered Abacha loot. Speaking at a
recent press conference in Lagos, the NGO
called on President
Muhammadu Buhari to “thoroughly
investigate the role and involvement of the
World Bank in the repatriation, management
and spending of Abacha stolen funds and
other funds.”
According to SERAP, the investigation
would ensure full transparency and
accountability in these transactions. The NGO
also wants to know the projects on which
the funds were spent. In its report entitled:
“Deterring Kleptomaniacs: Finding Nigeria’s
Re-stolen Billions and Repatriated Looted
Funds, SERAP emphasized the urgency of
seeking answers to questions surrounding
the expenditure of the recovered Abacha loot.
It would be naïve, however, to think that
SERAP alone can do the job if other Nigerians are indifferent to the issue of transparency
in the expenditure of the Abacha loot.
Nigerians have legitimate right to know
the projects on which these billions of
recovered funds were spent.
What is the point in recovering looted
funds, and the monies end up being relooted
or unaccounted for? How can loot
recovery efforts sustain their credibility
when the citizens are left in the dark about
the expenditure of these recovered billions?
How would European and American
governments take our leaders seriously
when recovered looted funds cannot be
duly and convincingly accounted for?
Corruption by General Abacha or
anybody else is indefensible. However, it
is insulting to the intelligence of Nigerians
that to create the impression that the
Abacha loot was the only money available
for recovery. Nigerians are sick and tired of
being inundated with stories of the Abacha
loot when they cannot see real efforts in
tracing and recovering other looted funds.
Worse still, nobody can account for how
these billions were spent.
Ahmad, a retired civil servant, contributed
this opinion from
No. 78, Old Karu Estate, Nyanya, FCT

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